Early Years and Influences
Fallen Keys is a one-man progressive metal project from Philadelphia fusing classic heavy metal, thrash, grunge, groove metal, and early 2000s metalcore.
Born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, USA, he first picked up the guitar at age 13 after being exposed to Van Halen and Guns N' Roses for the first time. He quickly fell in love with 80s thrash and the grunge movement of the early 90s, which remain two of the most recognizable influences in his music.
Having played in local bands in a very small music scene just prior to the dawn of social media, he failed to see a path towards making music a viable career, and his academic pursuits led him to living several years abroad and away from music.
Return to the US (and Music)
At the end of 2014, he returned to the US and moved to Washington, DC and discovered much of life as he remembered it had profoundly changed. The smartphone - which around the time he left was something of a curious novelty - had become ubiquitous. Suddenly every aspect of life seemed somehow integrated into technology - food, transportation, business, communication, dating, etc.
It was more than just reverse culture shock - it was suddenly finding oneself in a new era, one in which everyone, everywhere was online all the time. You were more connected to everyone you knew than ever before, and yet the compulsive checking of smartphones suggested you never really fully had anyone else's attention when talking to them face-to-face. Meanwhile the amount of attention you were paid online was easily quantifiable.
Not all the technological revolutions had been unwelcome, however. He discovered how much more accessible home recording had become and, more importantly, how much easier it was to find information about how to do it. Much the same way he had as a teenager, he found himself channeling his sense of alienation once again into music.
In 2017, after adopting the name Fallen Keys for his solo material, he began releasing acoustic instrumentals on youtube (since they were easy enough to record and film), but quickly found that he missed playing heavy music, and decided to start releasing some of his older material, which he felt he could do better now with
One day, he came across the word Instauration, which meant both "an act of instituting or establishing something" and "restoration after decay, lapse, or dilapidation." Immediately he had the title for his debut EP, a formal beginning to his discography that was also a resumption of artistic pursuits he had previously abandoned. He selected five of his favorite original songs from when he was in high school.
Unfortunately, by the end of 2017, his personal and professional life had fallen apart in a span of two weeks (he was also evicted from his house). He decided to start over and pursue a (very short-lived) career as a full-time audio engineer/ music producer in the DC area.
Starting a new career in a state of extreme burnout was ill-advised, and despite choosing to make music a career, he discovered he had little energy or interest in making his own. Instauration was recorded sporadically between 2018 and 2019 in a dark and cold basement apartment. One day while trying to rewrite the opening track, Moment of Impact, he developed what turned into Confrontation, the EP's climax. It was the only original piece of music he was able to write in all of 2018.
While trying to decide on the track order for the EP, he realized that the songs seemed to perfectly encapsulate the five stages of grief - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance - with the title track now meaning the next step of rebuilding.
Fallen Keys released Instauration in the fall of 2019 just after starting a new job and ready to finally move forward. He had big plans for 2020.
Like everyone else in the world experienced, many of those plans were put on hold.
While isolating in his basement apartment in the summer of 2020, Fallen Keys began work on his first attempt at directing a narrative music video. He had long wanted to make a video for Fist vs Concrete, a stand-alone single he had written (and recorded) in five minutes in a flash of inspiration back in 2016.
The song's ugly and unpolished sound was perfect for the low-budget short film that he spent five weeks obsessively shooting and editing inside of the dreary four walls of a room in his basement apartment. Directing and starring in a video proved as challenging as self-producing music, but nearly losing his mind in the process helped to make his performance convincing. Shortly after finally releasing the video, he was forced to move out of the apartment and decided to finally leave DC and return to Pennsylvania. The abrupt move postponed the recording and release of his debut album, which would not come out until 2022.
While Instauration was meant to be the first entry in the Fallen Keys discography, the goal even before it was recorded was always to release another set of older songs, ones with an overt social commentary about life in the US, as the debut album. This became Pseudomerica.
The recording process was lengthy and difficult, with many interruptions. Once it was clear it wouldn't be possible to complete by the 2020 US election, the album began to grow further in scope and ambition. Instrumental passages were created to provide a break between the lengthy main tracks and add context to the lyrics. These include a fourth-wall breaking commercial interruption and even an excerpt from an interview questioning whether the whole album isn't just an exercise in solipsism.
The album's ominous, dark, but equally sarcastic and ridiculous tone makes it a heavy metal tour de farce, a reflection of the absurd technology-induced fever dream of the United States in the age of social media - a culture of consumerism, narcissism and, increasingly, nihilism. Lyrically, the album explores themes of mass hysteria, declining trust in institutions, weaponized tribalism, social-engineering vis-a-vis social media, and the concentration of power in the hands of fewer and fewer mega-corporations.
While guitars and vocals were completed by the end of 2021, the mix of the album was not complete until almost halfway through 2022 and it was finally released.
The instrumental version of the album was released at the end of 2022. Fallen Keys is currently working on his next release.